The Northern Illinois women’s cross country team will kick off its 2011 season Saturday when runners head to Palos Heights, Ill., for the UIC Opener.
The meet – which will be dual-scored – begins at 10 a.m. with the 2-mile run in the Swallow Cliff Natural Area.
NIU will face a field with a bit of regional flavor, as Chicago-area institutions such as the host Flames, Chicago State, DePaul, Loyola and St. Xavier highlight a field that also includes UW-Green Bay and UW-Milwaukee.
“For the first meet, I’m just looking for great efforts,” said Huskie head coach Greg Hipp. “This one’s just about getting out there and competing tough, not matter what the outcome may be.”
The Huskies will return nine athletes from last year’s squad, including junior standout Courtney Oldenburg, who has been the top finishing Huskie at every meet the last two seasons. The lone newcomer on the team is freshman Jamie Burr, who comes to NIU after an illustrious career at Onalaska High School in Wisconsin.
“Courtney is going to be pretty competitive in this meet,” Hipp said. “I’m looking forward to seeing how Jamie reacts to the competition. Our top competitors are going to be Courtney and Jamie, but we can’t do well as a team if the other girls don’t step up and show that they can compete.”
The meet will also be the premiere for Hipp, who joined Northern Illinois after previously coaching at Missouri State. Yet, according to Hipp, there is no anxiety.
“You kind of know where you are going into these cross country meets,” he said. “You kind of know where you are going to stand in a few spots, so I’m not too nervous about that. I’m curious to see how the girls will react in their first competition.”
For more information on NIU cross country and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.